Ukraine: Zelensky promises retaliation after Odessa, Putin meets Lukashenko

Ukraine promised “retribution” this Sunday, July 23, after a night of “19 Russian missiles” being fired over Odessa that killed two people, injured twenty and “destroyed” a historic cathedral, hours before a meeting between Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, a loyal ally of Moscow.

Speaking on the occasion, the Russian President told Mr Lukashenko that Ukraine’s counter-offensive to drive Russian forces out of Ukraine had “failed”.

The two heads of state, who met for two days in St. Petersburg in northwestern Russia, specifically planned to discuss the “strategic partnership and alliance” between their countries. About a month earlier, at the time of the aborted uprising of the paramilitary group Wagner, Alexander Lukashenko was presented as a mediator between the Kremlin and Yevgeny Prigogine.

Regularly targeted by Russian attacks, Odessa, whose historic center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site earlier this year, was the target of a new overnight attack that killed two people and injured 22 others, including at least four children, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Missiles against peaceful cities, against apartment buildings, a cathedral (…)”, blasted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He promised, “There will certainly be retribution against the Russian terrorists in Odessa.”

The Ukrainian Air Force, for its part, confirmed that a total of “19 missiles of various types” (Onyx, Kalibr and Iskander) were fired by the “enemy” during the night, of which nine were destroyed.

“Night from Hell” and a “destroyed” cathedral

“The Transfiguration Cathedral in the historic center of Odessa, protected by UNESCO, was destroyed. A war crime that will never be forgotten or forgiven”, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry condemned on Twitter.

The military said the projectiles, which were not intercepted by anti-aircraft defense, “damaged at least six residences, including port infrastructure, apartment buildings.” The attack also caused “power cuts”, he said.

The head of the presidential administration, Andrey Yermak, in response demanded “more defense missile systems” and strategic missiles for Ukraine.

Located on the Black Sea coast, Odessa is a strategic city for sea transit in the region. It experienced a “night from hell” on Thursday, when Kiev accused Moscow of specifically targeting port infrastructure to block any possible resumption of Ukrainian grain exports.

UNESCO on Friday “strongly condemned” the Russian attacks on “several museums” and historic buildings in the city centre, which “caused damage”.

The Russian military ensures that it only targets military sites. On Sunday, it claimed to have struck sites “where terrorist acts against Russia were being prepared using naval drones”.

Tension increased in the Black Sea

The new overnight attack comes a day after a Ukrainian drone strike blew up an ammunition depot in Crimea, prompting the evacuation of the surrounding population and suspending rail traffic in the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

The death of a Russian journalist in the Ukrainian bombing also sparked anger from the Kremlin, who spoke of a “heinous crime” and promised to “answer” those responsible for the attack. Its target was a “military installation”, an internal source in the Ukrainian military told AFP.

The Russian attacks on Odessa came shortly after Moscow announced it had conducted military maneuvers with missile fire in the Black Sea, where tensions have risen since the expiration of a key grain agreement for world food that allowed Ukrainian grain exports.

During the night of Thursday to Friday, Russian Kalibr-type cruise missiles fired from the sea struck the Odessa region, making the attack the fourth night in a row.

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Skirmishes near Zaporizhia

In the northeast of the region, on the Zaporizhzhya front, where Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is located, occupied by the Russians, according to the TASS news agency, citing Oleg Chekhov, the press chief of the Russian units “Vostok”, the latter repelled “three attacks by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the direction of Rabotino”.

“Tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and soldiers” of the Ukrainian army were “destroyed”, he said.

For its part, the Ukrainian military announced that Moscow was focusing “the main part of its efforts on preventing the advance of its people”. He assured that Russia had failed in its attempt to “recover its lost positions south of Novodarivka in the Zaporizhia region”.

“At the same time, the Defense Forces of Ukraine continued offensive operations on the Melitopol and Berdyansk fronts and strengthened their positions,” the military said.

(with AFP)


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